Tag Archives: Time

How Do You Assure Consist Reliable Service? Six Solutions

Situation:  A company has remote employees who are on a wide variety of schedules. Retaining great employees is a challenge, and with this consistent service due to turn-over. How do they improve the relationships that they have with remote employees? How do you assure consistent reliable service?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Guarantee employee income for a period after they lose a client and as you seek another assignment for them. Limit your exposure by setting hurdles – an employee must have served the company for X time to qualify for this benefit.
  • Create your own “down time” bank. Say you pay an employee $10. Give them $9 and put $1 into a bank so that you can pay them once they lose their current client. The fact that their bank is limited to the amount of these contributions creates an incentive not to draw down the bank.
  • Offer a paid day off per month of service.
  • How do you shift your business from commodity to specialty, as a value add business?
    • What Peace of Mind features could you provide to your clients to create added value and stickiness? For example, can you provide a portal into your system so that clients can access information on the services that you’ve provided, or enhance their ability to communicate with their own clients? What about access to time schedules, account notes, etc.
    • Look for a solution that will shift the industry.
    • Look at menu driven packaging and pricing options. Examples include discount pricing for purchase volume commitments or iPads for a significant level of investment.

Does it Pay to Share an Employee? Four Points

Situation: A company has an excellent bookkeeper. However, during slow seasons cash is tight and the bookkeeper is not occupied full time. The CEO contacted a friend at another company, and that company has hired the bookkeeper for 10 hours / week. This is working well for both for both companies. Are there downsides to doing this? Does it pay to share an employee?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • If you share an employee, share at your cost – your fully burdened cost per hour. For the company using a piece of your employee, this may be a significant hourly cost, but is much less expensive than a consultant and lower risk than bringing on an unknown individual.
  • Keep a short term perspective – once the economy improves you will want the individual back full-time. Make sure that this is well understood by the other company.
  • Make sure that this is not a burden on your bookkeeper. Ask whether the individual can handle two bosses. It helps to fully segregate the individual’s time with time rules – for example, by day or half-day with clean break points in time worked for Company A vs. Company B.
  • Overall, the apparent benefits of this situation outweigh the challenges.

How Do You Optimize Quality Improvement? Six Suggestions

Situation: A company’s reputation is based on quality of work. The CEO notes that occasionally they have mishaps due to suboptimal documentation. They are considering a concerted quality effort.  Based on your experience, would you do this whether or not you were bound by ISO requirements? If so, would you hire an outside consultant to guide your efforts? How do you optimize quality improvement?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Some companies have successfully used ISO to force documentation. ISO provides a structure to enforce keeping the company and employees diligent and honest.
  • Other companies have used standard operating procedures (SOPs) for field as well as internal functions to speed completion of documentation and accelerate invoicing. These companies may or may not have ISO requirements.
  • One company tried to go cheap – implementing process improvement without a qualified consultant. While the effort was eventually successful, it took way too much time and money. From this experience, they recommend hiring someone who is experienced and who already has a template to guide the process.
  • To test the experience of an outside consultant, start with a small project to get the company accustomed to the process and to evaluate the consultant’s efficacy.
  • If the choice is to work on this yourself with your employees, start by documenting what happens correctly. Once you have done this, work on improvements to address problem areas.
  • This is not a simple exercise – plan for it and use the right inside or outside person to guide the process.

 

What Efficiency Metrics are Most Important? Six Suggestions

Situation: An early stage manufacturing company has established repeatable operations that produce the desired quality. The CEO now wants to focus on efficiency. Early research suggests a number of areas on which they could focus. Based on your experience, what efficiency metrics are most important in manufacturing?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Much depends upon what is being manufactured, and both the complexity and labor intensity of the manufacturing process. Start with the basics: looks for a relevant quality metric, and a time / delivery metric. Test these for relevance to your operations and adjust or change them as necessary over time.
  • Start with simple metrics and make them more complex over time.
  • On an ongoing basis, monitor your processes for continuous improvement. If an employee comes up with an improvement that increases efficiency and saves money, recognize and reward that employee.
  • Be selective. Limit your focus to 2-3 metrics per quarter. Make first period performance the baseline for the next period.
  • Areas in which to focus:
    • Cycle times.
    • Statistical process control to monitor:
      • Yield
      • Throughput
      • Fall-out
    • On time delivery to production schedule.
    • Quality check at end of production – yield rates versus pre-set targets.
    • Use Google to see what others are using. Google “Manufacturing Performance Indicators”.
  • As you develop your efficiency metrics, include your most effective metrics in performance measurement for bonus awards.

How Do You Structure a Transition Proposal? Three Insights

Situation: A CEO is transitioning her role in a company that she founded to new ventures, while maintaining a part-time commitment to the company. The company seeks a proposal as to how she will split her time and what compensation she wants during the transition. The CEO seeks guidance on the focus and content of the proposal. How do you structure a transition proposal?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • This sounds like a set of half-decisions.
    • The CEO envisions a transition from the current position to a transition position to a new position. The more likely scenario is that the CEO will go straight to the new position. As soon as one new venture starts to solidify, this will demand 100% of the CEO’s time.
    • Given that this is most likely the CEO’s priority, the important question is what the company wants and needs from the CEO. Deliverables, time commitment and compensation should follow these needs.
  • Another approach is to look at an exit package, including a long-term consulting retainer. For example, full salary for 6 months with a retainer for another 6 months. This will allow the CEO more freedom and flexibility to pursue the new ventures.
  • The current negotiation is just a starting point. Here are the things to consider in the proposal to the company:
    • Does the CEO need income from the current company during your transition? Will a new venture benefit from financial or professional assistance from the company?
    • If the CEO is not fully engaged with the company, leadership will likely want the CEO out sooner than later.
    • The company mostly will want a non-compete and the ability to use the CEO as a resource as needed.

How Do You Plan an Off-Site Meeting? Several Suggestions

Situation: A CEO wants to schedule an off-site planning meeting with her top staff. She has heard about the potential efficacy of off-site meetings and is intrigued by the idea of taking her staff away from the office for a day or two to concentrate on planning. She is curious about typical agendas, time frames, objectives and who should be involved in the meetings. How do you plan an off-site meeting?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • General considerations
    • Set the objective of the meeting in advance. Tell everyone involved the objective so that they are thinking about this prior to the meeting.
    • The staff involved depends on the objective of the meeting. Select participants to fit the need.
    • Include a team building event. One purpose of off-sites is to help the team or teams get to know each other better and improve collaboration.
    • Have an agenda for the meeting and meet without interruptions. Have participants notify key customers or contacts in advance, schedule back-up contacts if necessary, and don’t allow interruptions.
    • Hold the meeting during work hours. Options: one day, local for easy travel and return home; or two days, nice setting, dinner the first day, and late afternoon return home the second day.
    • Do you need a facilitator? This depends on the goal and organizer’s comfort with the topic of focus.
  • Typical Agenda:
    • A speaker or educational component pertinent to the meeting goal.
    • Breakout and group discussions to think through important issues.
    • A team-building event.
    • Some fun – dinner or an evening activity that allows individuals to talk in a relaxed setting.
  • Examples of effective events:
    • Broad agenda – What can we do better?
    • All-hands meeting – prompts contribution by all.
    • Opportunity for CEO to communicate the company vision and involve employees in the planning process for the coming year or period.

How Do You Evaluate Career Choices? Three Considerations

Situation: An SMB CEO has sold his business and seeks a new opportunity. Options range from a mid-level position in a large company to various options in existing or start-up smaller companies. How do you evaluate your career choices?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The most important factors are to determine what you want to do and what will make you, and your family, happy. Start with a Pro/Con analysis of each type of opportunity compared with your short and long-term desires. Which among the following choices are more important?

o    Financial stability and some level of job security vs. higher risk and potential reward with lower security.

o    Desire to be a player or to be the person in charge vs. being happy with a staff position.

o    Ability to create your own path or willingness to adapt to the priorities of others.

  • Given these choices, here is what you may find:

o    In a large or established company the most likely opportunity will be a staff position. The trade-off is stability for authority, but be aware that large company organizational politics may be severe.

o    In a small existing company it is possible to be a player in a key position. The trade-off is lower stability and viability for more authority.

o    In a new company there is the chance to be the CEO, bringing business experience to a group with technology expertise. The trade-off is high risk, long hours and low stability for a high level of authority.

  • Other factors to consider are how critical your personal situation is and the depth of your resources. If you have time and flexibility, take the time to find a situation that best meets your needs.

How Do Get a Shanghai Office Up to Speed? Six Suggestions

Situation: A company recently set up an operation in Shanghai. An immediate shock has been that that the Chinese engineers have not been able to solve problems creatively. To date their solutions are limited to following an outline provided by the home office. How does the company address this? How do you get a Shanghai office up to speed?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Current Chinese culture is to do what you’re told, and not to vary from the direction given by those to whom you report. However, these are smart people. Given time and training they will get through this. Can you be patient enough to allow this to occur?
  • The most important role in your Shanghai location is a trusted, competent Chinese General Manager. This individual can get you where you want to be the fastest. It is also the hardest position to fill in China.
  • One option is to investigate connections through the SCEA – Silicon Valley Chinese Engineers Association. Many SCEA members are Chinese who have been educated in the US but want to return to China. You may find good candidates here.
    • The best candidates have bi-cultural exposure – they understand Chinese culture, but also understand US standards, expectations and operations.
    • Be sure to check US references of any candidates who are currently in the US.
  • Early operations and adaptations are the most difficult. Talk to people in Shanghai who have solved this problem.
  • Develop a separate project selection / development methodology for projects you want to transfer to China. This will change as the Chinese employees begin to approach US standards.
  • As you hire new Chinese employees, look for individuals who play and write music. They are naturally more creative. Microsoft has used this approach successfully in China.

How Do You Handle Demands for Faster Delivery? Four Options

Situation: A company’s clients are demanding increasingly faster response times, particularly in areas that historically have not been considered mission critical. Clients also want faster answers to technical questions. Is this a common occurrence, and would you adjust pricing in response? How do you handle demands for faster delivery?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • If clients are demanding faster delivery, it’s entirely reasonable to tier your rates for different levels of service and delivery. Create cost / ROI breakdowns for different options, and let your clients make a business decision about the level of responsiveness that they need.
  • When brining on new clients, do a worst case down time analysis for the prospect as part of your evaluation process, then provide price options and let the prospect evaluate what is important to them. This is similar to different price / deductible levels with health or car insurance.
  • You will need to educate your current client base on what you are doing for them, and when they are reaching the upper levels of service provision under their current contract.
    • When you provide remote service, communicate what you have done.
      • Email individualized update reports to client contacts.
      • When you meet clients face to face, have a printout of service provided and toot your own horn about your service and delivery.
  • Be aware of the needs of clients who have distributed locations across time zones. A two-hour response time on the West Coast at 8:00 in the morning, translates to a half day for an East Coast location because they can’t call you until 11:00am Eastern time.

How Do You Make Time for Initiatives? Four Approaches

Situation: A company is enjoying a good year and is busy both adding new business and serving current clients. However, the CEO finds that when business is good he doesn’t have time to focus on all of his initiatives. This frustrates him. How do you make time for initiatives?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • How extensive is your To-Do List? If you have two or three major, time consuming initiatives, and a host of small tasks, prioritize both categories. Focus on what you can do given the time you have available. Put lower priority on the smaller tasks, and delegate as much as you can, or put them off until things slow down. This will help deal with your frustrations.
  • Block out time for yourself.
    • Do this early in the day, before you have lots of distractions on your desk.
    • Allocate 1-2 hours early in the morning, and get to work a little later. Let you staff know that you are not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency, but that they will have your full attention when you get to the office.
  • Plan you initiatives, segment them into smaller pieces, and schedule them.
    • Use Mindmapping to segment them, or a piece of software like MindManager to assist your thinking.
    • Among the segmented pieces, look for opportunities to delegate to free up your time and involve staff in the initiative.
  • Develop a Task List in Feature/Deliverables terms with a broad timeframe.
    • Prioritize and build into your Quarterly and Annual plans.
    • Again, look for opportunities to delegate.